Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Interview from the Archive: Ted Rall says that Bernie Sanders was the man to defeat Donald Trump

Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 10, 2017.

Story by Joseph Ford Cotto

People say a lot about political correctness, yet nothing at all.
It is one of those subjects that generates passionate controversy from both sides. Surely, most of us have heard debates on the matter which ramble into pointlessness. Indeed, one can hardly make a point about the key aspects of political correctness because these are deemed unsuitable for polite conversation.
This is the saving grace for PC proponents. 

Opposing viewpoints are called “bigoted”, “unenlightened”, “intolerant”, “outdated”, or, the mother of them all, “racist”. Those who support unorthodox ideas are viciously attacked and vilified so that others are strong-armed to a state of perennial submission.

Ted Rall is not the sort to submit -- quite the opposite, in fact.

He is a left-leaning columnist and cartoonist whose work gets international syndication; a true mark of accomplishment in age where newspapers are going to their great reward in record number. Well, bankruptcy is hardly a reward, but you get the point. For years, Rall has provided keen insight about the follies of American political life; irrespective of whether this irritates leftists, rightists, or even centrists.

I have read his work for quite awhile and developed the sinking suspicion that he really has it out for the oh-so-urbane pearl-clutchers in that last group. 

As the author of The Anti-American Manifesto and The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt, it is easy to see why Rall engenders controversy from a broad range of perspectives. While his blunt honesty repels some, others of us appreciate his wit and no-nonsense delivery -- even if we do not agree with him on most issues.

Rall recently spoke with me about many issues pertinent to the politics of today. Some of our discussion is included below.


Joseph Ford Cotto: A few years ago, certain political forecasters claimed that the future of America's center-left was neoliberal economics merged with identity politics. This coalition served Barack Obama well, but resulted in electoral disaster for the Democratic Party as a whole. Do you see this neoliberal/identitarian hybrid holding any serious power during the years to come? 

Ted Rall: Yes, this theoretical basis for the Obama coalition has yet to have a stake driven through its heart for one simple reason: the people who came up with it or still in charge of the Democratic Party. Most outsiders, especially progressive, look at what happened in the presidential election and realize that a candidate like Bernie Sanders would have stood a better chance of defeating Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton did. The polls said so throughout the campaign. 

However, the DNC still remains in the hands of Democrats who owe their political careers or who aligned themselves with the Clintonian "third way"/Democratic Leadership Council triangulation model of the 1990s. Until those Democratic leaders are purchased from the party leadership and disappear from Congress, I expect them to remain influential or, more likely, dominant, within the Democratic Party.

Cotto: More than anything else, why are protectionist economics transforming the American progressive movement?

Rall: Because they've seen that globalization doesn't work. If you're like me, and you grew up in the postindustrial Midwest – I'm from Dayton Ohio – you know that losing your job only to be told not to worry because someone else will be doing better than you, maybe not even someone in your own country but someone overseas – provides no help whatsoever. 

If the elites had prepared social welfare programs to create a soft landing for people displaced by globalization, if they had provided reeducation campaigns for people who wanted to go back to school to retrain for other positions, things might look different. But as usual, they were shortsighted and greedy, and now everyone is paying the price. No matter what happens during a Trump administration, protectionism will continue to be a dominant strain within progressivism and liberalism. 

The sooner that the Democratic Party catches on, the more likely that they will be able to save themselves from a historic rift or even split.

Cotto: Some believe that ethnic, racial, sexual, and social identity politics should drive Democratic policy for the foreseeable future, while others say that economic populism ought to rule the day. Which approach do you think is most likely to resonate with voters?

Rall: My mother used to show me two desserts when I was a kid: maybe some baked good and maybe applesauce, which believe it or not, I really liked at the time. When I would go to pick one, then she would say, one doesn't prevent the other! And she'd give me two desserts. The point is, who choose? 

Aside from the politics of winning, the fact is that social justice is just. The struggle for racial equality, women's rights, against homophobia and for equal rights for LGBTQA people, fighting for the disabled, etc., these are not trivial issues. These are real people and they really need our help and we should fight for them. However, social justice has become perverted within the Democratic Party, replaced by empty symbolism. 

Is it really a victory for feminists, for example, if Hillary Clinton, who only became a national figure because she married a future president, becomes president herself? Is it a victory for blacks to have eight years of a black president who doesn't do anything for black people? I don't see any conflict between fighting social identity issues and emphasizing class. These two are not separate. They are intimately intertwined. 

What we need is an intelligent approach, one that synthesizes both struggles and explain to everybody why it's possible to fight for particular as well as generalized liberation.

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